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Ender in Exile

Orson Scott Card




  The Folk of the Fringe

  Future on Fire (editor) Future on Ice (editor) Hart's Hope

  Lovelock (with Kathryn Kidd) Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus



  The Worthing Saga



  Ender's Game

  Speaker for the Dead


  Children of the Mind

  Ender's Shadow

  Shadow of the Hegemon

  Shadow Puppets

  Shadow of the Giant


  Seventh Son Red Prophet

  Alvin Journeyman Heartfire

  Prentice Alvin The Crystal City


  The Memory of Earth

  The Call of Earth

  The Ships of Earth






  Rachel & Leah


  Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fiction of Orson Scott Card (hardcover) Maps in a Mirror, Volume 1: The Changed Man (paperback) Maps in a Mirror, Volume 2: Flux (paperback) Maps in a Mirror, Volume 3: Cruel Miracles (paperback) Maps in a Mirror, Volume 4: Monkey Sonatas (paperback)


  Orson Scott Card







  Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio: you continue to earn my trust and admiration as fellow travelers on the twisted path of life.




























  To: [email protected], [email protected]

  From: hgraff%[email protected]

  Subj: When Andrew Returns Home

  Dear John Paul and Theresa Wiggin,

  You understand that during the recent attempt by the Warsaw Pact to take over the International Fleet, our sole concern at EducAdmin was the safety of the children. Now we are finally able to begin working out the logistics of sending the children home.

  We assure you that Andrew will be provided with continuous surveillance and an active bodyguard throughout his transfer from the I.F. to American government control. We are still negotiating the degree to which the I.F. will continue to provide protection after the transfer.

  Every effort is being made by EducAdmin to assure that Andrew will be able to return to the most normal childhood possible. However, I wish your advice about whether he should be retained here in isolation until the conclusion of the inquiries into EducAdmin actions during the late campaign. It is quite likely that testimony will be offered that depicts Andrew and his actions in damaging ways, in order to attack EducAdmin through him (and the other children). Here at IFCom we can keep him from hearing the worst of it; on Earth, no such protection will be possible and it is likelier that he will be called to "testify."

  Hyrum Graff

  Theresa Wiggin was sitting up in bed, holding her printout of Graff's letter. "'Called to "testify."' Which means putting him on exhibit as--what, a hero? More likely a monster, since we already have various senators decrying the exploitation of children."

  "That'll teach him to save the human race," said her husband, John Paul.

  "This is not a time for flippancy."

  "Theresa, be reasonable," said John Paul. "I want Ender home as much as you do."

  "No you don't," said Theresa fiercely. "You don't ache with the need for him every day." Even as she said it she knew she was being unfair to him, and she covered her eyes and shook her head.

  To his credit, he understood and didn't argue with her about what he did and did not feel. "You can never have the years they've taken, Theresa. He's not the boy we knew."

  "Then we'll get to know the boy he is. Here. In our home."

  "Surrounded by guards."

  "That's the part I refuse to accept. Who would want to hurt him?"

  John Paul set down the book he was no longer pretending to read. "Theresa, you're the smartest person I know."

  "He's a child!"

  "He won a war against incredibly superior forces."

  "He fired off one weapon. Which he did not design or deploy."

  "He got that weapon into firing range."

  "The formics are gone! He's a hero, he's not in danger."

  "All right, Theresa, he's a hero. How is he going to go to middle school? What eighth-grade teacher is ready for him? What school dance is he going to be ready for?"

  "It will take time. But here, with his family--"

  "Yes, we're such a warm, welcoming group of people, a love nest into which he'll fit so easily."

  "We do love each other!"

  "Theresa, Colonel Graff is only trying to warn us that Ender isn't just our son."

  "He's nobody else's son."

  "You know who wants to kill our son."

  "No, I don't."

  "Every government that thinks of American military power as an obstacle to their plans."

  "But Ender isn't going to be in the military, he's going to be--"

  "This week he won't be in the American military. Maybe. He won a war at the age of twelve, Theresa. What makes you think he won't be drafted by our benevolent and democratic government the moment he gets back to Earth? Or put into protective custody? Maybe they'll let us go with him and maybe they won't."

  Theresa let the tears flow down her cheeks. "So you're saying that when he left here we lost him forever."

  "I'm saying that when your child goes off to war, you will never get him back. Not as he was, not the same boy. Changed, if he comes back at all. So let me ask you. Do you want him to go where he's in the greatest danger, or to stay where he's relatively safe?"

  "You think Graff is trying to get us to tell him to keep Ender with him out there in space."

  "I think Graff cares what happens to Ender, and he's letting us know--without actually saying it, because every letter he sends can be used against him in court--that Ender is in terrible danger. Not ten minutes after Ender's victory, the Russians made their brutal play for control of the I.F. Their soldiers killed thousands of fleet officers before the I.F. was able to force their surrender. What would they have done if they had won? Brought Ender home and put on a big parade for him?"

  Theresa knew all of this. She had known it, viscerally at least, from the moment she read Graff's letter. No, she had known it even before, had known it with a sick dread as soon as she heard that the Formic War was over. He would not be coming home.

  She felt John Paul's hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off. His hand returned, stroking her arm as she lay there, facing away from him, crying because she knew she had already lost the argument, crying because she wasn't even on her own side in their quarrel.

  "We knew when he was born that he didn't belong to us."

  "He does belong to us."

"If he comes home, his life belongs to whatever government has the power to protect him and use him--or kill him. He's the single most important asset surviving from the war. The great weapon. That's all he'll be--that and such a celebrity he can't possibly have a normal childhood anyway. And would we be much help, Theresa? Do we understand what his life has been for the past seven years? What kind of parents can we be to the boy--the man--that he's become?"

  "We would be wonderful," she said.

  "And we know this because we're such perfect parents for the children we have at home with us."

  Theresa rolled onto her back. "Oh, dear. Poor Peter. It must be killing him that Ender might come home."

  "Take the wind right out of his sails."

  "Oh, I'm not sure of that," said Theresa. "I bet Peter is already figuring out how to exploit Ender's return."

  "Until he finds out that Ender is much too clever to be exploited."

  "What preparation does Ender have for politics? He's been in the military all this time."

  John Paul chuckled.

  "All right, yes, of course the military is just as political as government."

  "But you're right," said John Paul. "Ender's had protection there, people who intended to exploit him, yes, but he hasn't had to do any bureaucratic fighting for himself. He's probably a babe in the woods when it comes to maneuvering like that."

  "So Peter really could use him?"

  "That's not what worries me. What worries me is what Peter will do when he finds out that he can't use him."

  Theresa sat back up and faced her husband. "You can't think Peter would raise a hand against Ender!"

  "Peter doesn't raise his own hand to do anything difficult or dangerous. You know how he's been using Valentine."

  "Only because she lets him use her."

  "Exactly my point," said John Paul.

  "Ender is not in danger from his own family."

  "Theresa, we have to decide: What's best for Ender? What's best for Peter and Valentine? What's best for the future of the world?"

  "Sitting here on our bed, in the middle of the night, the two of us are deciding the fate of the world?"

  "When we conceived little Andrew, my dear, we decided the fate of the world."

  "And had a good time doing it," she added.

  "Is it good for Ender to come home? Will it make him happy?"

  "Do you really think he's forgotten us?" she asked. "Do you think Ender doesn't care whether he comes home?"

  "Coming home lasts a day or two. Then there's living here. The danger from foreign powers, the unnaturalness of his life at school, the constant infringements on his privacy, and let's not forget Peter's unquenchable ambition and envy. So I ask again, will Ender's life here be happier than it would be if..."

  "If he stays out in space? What kind of life will that be for him?"

  "The I.F. has made its commitment--total neutrality in regard to anything happening on Earth. If they have Ender, then the whole world--every government--will know they'd better not try to go up against the Fleet."

  "So by not coming home, Ender continues to save the world on an ongoing basis," said Theresa. "What a useful life he'll have."

  "The point is that nobody else can use him."

  Theresa put on her sweetest voice. "So you think we should write back to Graff and tell him that we don't want Ender to come home?"

  "We can't do anything of the kind," said John Paul. "We'll write back that we're eager to see our son and we don't think any bodyguard will be necessary."

  It took her a moment to realize why he seemed to be reversing everything he'd said. "Any letters we send Graff," she said, "will be just as public as the letter he sent us. And just as empty. And we do nothing and let things take their course."

  "No, my dear," said John Paul. "It happens that living in our own house, under our own roof, are two of the most influential formers of public opinion."

  "But John Paul, officially we don't know that our children are sneaking around in the nets, manipulating events through Peter's network of correspondents and Valentine's brilliantly perverse talent for demagoguery."

  "And they don't know that we have any brains," said John Paul. "They seem to think they were left at our house by fairies instead of having our genetic material throughout their little bodies. They treat us as convenient samples of ignorant public opinion. So...let's give them some public opinions that will steer them to do what's best for their brother."

  "What's best," echoed Theresa. "We don't know what's best."

  "No," said John Paul. "We only know what seems best. But one thing's certain--we know a lot more about it than any of our children do."

  Valentine came home from school with anger festering inside her. Stupid teachers--it made her crazy sometimes to ask a question and have the teacher patiently explain things to her as if the question were a sign of Valentine's failure to understand the subject, instead of the teacher's. But Valentine sat there and took it, as the equation showed up in the holodisplay on everybody's desk and the teacher covered it point by point.

  Then Valentine drew a little circle in the air around the element of the problem that the teacher had not addressed properly--the reason why the answer was not right. Valentine's circle did not show up on all the desks, of course; only the teacher's computer had that capability.

  So the teacher then got to draw his own circle around that number and say, "What you're not noticing here, Valentine, is that even with this explanation, if you ignore this element you still can't get the right answer."

  It was such an obvious ego-protective cover-up. But of course it was obvious only to Valentine. To the other students, who were barely grasping the material anyway (especially since it was being explained to them by an unobservant incompetent), it was Val who had overlooked the circled parenthetical, even though it was precisely because of that element that she had asked her question in the first place.

  And the teacher gave her that simpering smile that clearly said, You aren't going to defeat me and humiliate me in front of this class.

  But Valentine was not trying to humiliate him. She did not care about him. She simply cared that the material be taught well enough that if, God forbid, some member of the class became a civil engineer, his bridges wouldn't fall down and kill people.

  That was the difference between her and the idiots of the world. They were all trying to look smart and keep their social standing. Whereas Valentine didn't care about social standing, she cared about getting it right. Getting the truth--when the truth was gettable.

  She had said nothing to the teacher and nothing to any of the students and she knew she wouldn't get any sympathy at home, either. Peter would mock her for caring about school enough to let that clown of a teacher get under her skin. Father would look at the problem, point out the correct answer, and go back to his work without ever noticing that Val wasn't asking for help, she was asking for commiseration.

  And Mother? She would be all for charging down to the school and doing something about it, raking the teacher over the coals. Mother wouldn't even hear Val explaining that she didn't want to shame the teacher, she just wanted somebody to say, "Isn't it ironic, that in this special advanced school for really bright kids, they have a teacher who doesn't know his own subject!" To which Val could reply, "It sure is!" and then she'd feel better. Like somebody was on her side. Somebody got it and she wasn't alone.

  My needs are simple and few, thought Valentine. Food. Clothing. A comfortable place to sleep. And no idiots.

  But of course a world with no idiots would be lonely. If she herself were even allowed there. It's not as if she never made mistakes.

  Like the mistake of ever letting Peter rope her into being Demosthenes. He still thought he needed to tell her what to write every day after school--as if, after all these years, she had not completely internalized the character. She could write Demosthenes' essays in her sleep.

  And if she needed help, all she had to do was listen
to Father pontificate on world affairs--since he seemed to echo all of Demosthenes' warmongering jingoistic demagogic opinions despite claiming never to read the columns.

  If he knew his sweet naive little daughter was writing those essays, he'd poop petunias.

  She fumed into the house, headed straight for her computer, scanned the news, and started writing the essay she knew Peter would assign her--a diatribe on how the I.F. should not have ended the hostilities with the Warsaw Pact without first demanding that Russia surrender all her nukes, because shouldn't there be some cost to waging a nakedly aggressive war? All the usual spewings from her Demosthenes anti-avatar.

  Or am I, as Demosthenes, Peter's real avatar? Have I been turned into a virtual person?

  Click. An email. Anything would be better than what she was writing.

  It was from Mother. She was forwarding an email from Colonel Graff. About Ender having a bodyguard when he came home.

  "I thought you'd want to see this," Mother had written. "Isn't it just THRILLING that Andrew's homecoming is SO CLOSE?"

  Stop shouting, Mother. Why do you use caps for emphasis like that? It's so--junior high school. It's what she told Peter more than once. Mother is such a cheerleader.

  Mother's epistle went on in the same vein. It'll take NO time at ALL to get Ender's room back into shape for him and now there doesn't seem to be any reason to put off cleaning the room a SECOND longer unless what do you think, would Peter want to SHARE his room with his little brother so they could BOND and get CLOSE again? And what do you think Ender will want for his VERY FIRST meal home?

  Food, Mother. Whatever it is will definitely be "SPECIAL enough to make him feel LOVED and MISSED."

  Anyway. Mother was so naive to take Graff's letter at face value. Val went back and read it again. Surveillance. Bodyguard. Graff was sending her a warning, not trying to get her all excited about Ender's homecoming. Ender was going to be in danger. Couldn't Mother see that?

  Graff asked if they should keep Ender in space till the inquiries were over. But that would take months. How could Mother have gotten the idea that Ender was coming home so soon it was time to clear out the junk that had gotten stacked in his room? Graff was asking her to request that he not be sent home just yet. And his reason was that Ender was in danger.